EWF 2012 —

Future Bookshop: I heart QR Codes

Future Bookshop resident and artist Matt Blackwood talks all things QR…

QR codes make me smile.

This could have something to do with their block-based structuralist design, simplicity to create and scan, and their embedded content that can deeply enrich an in situ experience.

Unfortunately not everyone shares my love for QR codes.

More often than not, this attitude should be based not on the codes themselves, but the mistakes made by people creating the codes. Just like anything or anyone else, QR codes have their limitations, and yet, if these limitations are taken into account, these little pixellated beauties can do more than your average John or Jane Doe.

The below check-list shouldn’t be a secret to anyone creating QR codes, but if you are making a QR code, then for the sake of digital humanity, please consider the following:

Ensure your code links to content that adds to the in situ experience,

Ensure your code is not too small to be scanned,

Ensure your code will be lit enough to be scanned,

Ensure your code does not have too many reflections to be scanned,

Ensure your code is the right way up and not upside down,

Ensure the background colour of the code has sufficient contrast for code to be scanned,

Ensure your code has enough contrasted space around its border so it can be scanned,

Ensure your code can be read by as many devices and code readers as possible,

Ensure code content will work on devices across all platforms and screen sizes,

Ensure your code is linked to content that hasn’t already been deleted.

Locatively yours,

Matt Blackwood.

The Meaning of Structure

by Katrien Van Huyck

Let’s play a little game here.

You will be asked 5 questions. There is no possible way you will be able to guess the answers. Unless, off course, you were present at the Panel on Structure during the immensely exciting, supportive and unique EWF.

Enjoy anyway. It is very insightful.

1. How can one succeed in making each single person in a space that seats 120 feel welcome and valued even before they have introduced themselves to their literary neighbour?

Benjamin Grant Mitchell did. By preparing and handing out 10 dozen neatly typed up cards revealing the email addresses of the panellists (‘Just in case you have any queries later on’) and by smoothly and sincerely knitting their speeches together, the host of the Panel on Structure stole the audience hearts. And so did the rest of the panel. They sprinkled us with their non-commercial charm and surprised us with their individual and at times radical views on a writer’s structure. And they were all fine with their voices being recorded. Talking about a warm welcoming.

Thank you Benjamin for reminding us of the role of a great host.

2. How to structure a talk on Structure?

Yes, even a festival for and by emerging crowds prizes punctuality and reliability and so each panellist’s speech was strictly timed. Damon Young, writer, philosopher and pioneering speaker (the toughest role) mounted the stage fully equipped to take us all on an in depth journey through the structural steps necessary to create a good old essay.

He touched on the prologue, introduction, argument, conclusion and epilogue admitting the second part is the most challenging because you need to bring the reader into your world. The introduction is all about creating links to emotions and characters and setting the reader up for questions asked later in the piece. ‘You have to get people onto the rug with you to start with’ he continued, ‘then, later on, you can throw them off with something scary or beautiful or wonderful’.

As soon as Damon had so passionately sketched this metaphor he realised he was starting to run out of time, so he decided to throw in a last bit of advice that would effectively assemble the 3 pages of unspoken speech lying in front of him. ‘There are no perfect rules of good authorship’ he concluded, ‘there are only guidelines’.

Structure is a funny thing.

Thanks Damon for sharing with us that very powerful lesson.

3. How to capture the fluidity of the world into form?

Anita Sethi, flown in from the UK and  1 of the 7 ambassadors of the festival, crafted her metaphor by connecting the need for structure in the life of a full-time writer with the writer’s urge to create a coherent story. ‘Where have I come from? Where am I? and Where am I going?’ Anita reminded us in her soft voice, ‘are the questions at the heart of the journey’.

The journey and the whole idea of voyage and return is just one of the formats Christopher Booker describes in his book The Seven Basic Plots, and it is Sethi’s favorite. ‘Place signposts into your work’ she adviced, ‘as you don’t want your reader to get hopelessly lost in a building that is still under construction’. Further into her speech Anita inspired us to play with the pyramid structure, to juggle form and content by asking ourselves what kind of journey it is that our character is making. ‘And there is no point in going the journey on your own’ she smiled, ‘so use a very memorable opening sentence’.

There is no recipe for how to capture the world into form, it is a journey unique to each writer and which quote better captures this idea than this extract of the poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference.

Thank you Anita for seducing us with your playfulness.

4. How to look for holes in a structure?

It was wonderful to meet the writer behind comedienne Fiona Harris, to get a tatse of the methodical sweat shed backstage before the onstage laughter.

In Fiona’s approach everything evolves around the characters, their secret and how the audience can engage with them, care about them. Her writing process is clearly structured whereby Fiona, like a first class laboror, builds and balances words, brick by brick, to create a story with the solidity of a Romanesque palace -to use another metaphor.

Harris suggested a couple of things that might help the emerging writer to bring structure into their stories, and to detect and fill structural holes: write chronologically, introduce conflict immediately, add a few obstacles in the middle (suspense!) and offer a resolution at the end. She also emphasized that a good story needs about 5 to 6 big moments and off course, a good dose of humor.

Thank you Fiona for reminding us that being organised won’t do any harm.

5. How to speak your Truth?

Indiginous writer and storyteller Ali Cobby Eckermann got us all by surprise; not a single technical guideline was given, not one word of structural advice. Not in the sense that was expected anyway. The question that had brought us all together in the Yarra Room that morning was once more answered from an experiential point of view, just as the other panellists had done, but Ali’s speech was the rawest of all.

Coming from an oral written as opposed to a structural background it was the desert that was -and is- Eckermann’s campus so her way of approaching structure in her writing comes from the land. ‘Listen with all your senses, to the pulse of your land, where you are’ she sang to the audience whom had gone very quiet.

Ali keeps a tight knit bond with her family which to her is the underlying structure to her work. ‘My Structure is my truth’ Ali confessed, ‘I come from a family of storytellers and truth seekers’. To read her work out loud is an essential part of being a writer and storyteller, it helps her to feel how the words sit on the page. As she read her poem Tears for Mum it became clear that those words didn’t need any rearranging.

Thank you Ali for returning to the basics.



#ewf12 discussion…

Wow. There were a huge amount of blogs and reviews and photos created from #ewf12! Thanks to everyone who blogged – it is fascinating for us to hear your thoughts and opinions and inspirations from the festival.

Here’s what people were saying online…

Blog roundup

News & reviews

Plus posts from our EWF Planet bloggers:

Not forgetting reviews and insights from VU Blog Squad!

You can read a wrap up of Rabbit Hole here.

Some amazing discussions are taking place – why not join the conversation?

Also – if we missed your blog, link us in the comments and we’ll add you above! Thanks.

What is Future Bookshop?

Sun 17 Jun, 2–3:30pm

Future Bookshop has been an amazing exhibition, and there is still a whole weekend to go – have you visited yet?

To close the exhibition NGV is holding a public forum about the future of writing, reading and publishing. It will be hosted by Lisa Dempster and our Words in Winter writing residents will be in attendance to add their views!

Join us for an informal discussion between writers and visitors exploring the future of writing and help mark the end of Future Bookshop.

Free, NGV Studio, Flinders Street, Federation Square

Erin Stewart: The Present of Writing

From one of our Future Bookshop writing residents, Erin Stewart…

Many people harbour romantic views of what it is to be a writer. It involves introversion, locking yourself up at home with a pen and some paper, probably in front of a fireplace. Writers might drink a lot of wine and whiskey, their personal life is constantly under threat due to their ‘artistic temperament’. The loneliness and depression – with the heady mix of pure genius – gives rise to important musings about Big Ideas, Eternal Truths. The real truth is that writing isn’t like that anymore (if it ever really was like that).

Being in the Future Bookshop at the NGV compelled me to think about the future of reading – digital media alongside the traditional books, laptops and file sharing. If reading is changing, then so to must be writing.

In this post I will talk about some of the ways in which writing in its present form has divorced itself from old ideals.

1. Writers are part of a multimedia enterprise. It’s simply not enough to be merely good at writing. Journalists who write are increasingly broadcasters and radio presenters. Content is being produced in many forms. If you look at some of the bigger Australian news websites such as the ABC or Fairfax media, a lot of the time video footage and other media clips will accompany the analysis. Sometimes it’s the same person producing all of the different types of content, since they are the ones most attuned to the story. Moreover, on blogs youtube clips and pictures can be an important way to illuminate an idea.

2. Related to the push to multimedia is the push towards online and digital content. Writers these days blog and Tweet and facebook and tumblr and a whole host of other verbs which never existed ten years ago. As more and more traditionally printed newspapers and magazines are increasing their online content, it’s good odds that writers will have to write for the web – if not directly, then indirectly.

3. Writers are networkers. It’s okay though, they don’t necessarily have to leave the house, but they do have to network online. There are many writers who get away without ever touching social media, but emerging writers will attest that having an online presence and building a following is an important part of getting people to actually read your work. It’s not just your writing that has to be interesting, writers have to market themselves and indulge in shameless self-promotion.

4. Writers are business people. As much as it is important to indulge in one’s creativity and stay true to their art, ultimately writers have to interest the readers. Obtuse literature will prevail amongst some audiences, but for better or worse there is a need to be accessible and interesting. When pitching stories or working on a book proposal, it is really important for writers to focus on readership, target markets. Who is going to read this piece? Why should they read it? The focus isn’t really on ‘what do I want to write?’, or at least, that question is only a starting point.

5. Writers provide syndicated content. I’ve edited and coordinated a few different online publications, and there is a big push towards sourcing content from other blogs and websites in order to keep the site ticking over. This means that writing can turn up anywhere on multiple platforms to multiple audiences.

6. Writers write shorter pieces. Writers have to compete for the reader’s attention. It can be hard work as well. People are busy and have a penchant for television. Increasingly, magazines are moving to shorter content and it’s hard to be commissioned for a 3000 word piece outside the world of literary journals. Short and sharp is not always easier – writers have to be very focused and might not be able to cover every single aspect of a topic or an event.

Erin Stewart is working in the NGV Studio as part of the Future Bookshop. You can find her on twitter and tumblr, and see more of her work here.

A cold and blustery Page Parlour

What better a way to send off the 2012 Emerging Writers Festival than with a celebration of independent press in Melbourne?  Sunday’s Page Parlour showcased an extensive range of zines, magazines, journals and newspapers sourced from around the city.  Despite the horrendous weather consisting of blistering wind and icy chills, supporters of locally produced publications arrived en masse. High quality literature was in abundance on Sunday with over 20 tables littered with some of the most ridiculously niche zines I have ever come across. Vegan food from the Middle East, art through a feminist lens, stories about getting stitches and accidents in bathrooms.

Any interest would undoubtedly have been represented in some way or another on one of the rickety card tables that day. Tiny little flick-books depicted every band t-shirt ever seen by the eyes of the author; letters between sisters; zombie interpretations of Brokeback Mountain. If it wasn’t there on Sunday, it probably wasn’t worth knowing about. A really striking feature of the market on Sunday was the camaraderie shown between stallholders. Watching people get someone man their stall so they could browse and buy from other vendors. I had expected more of a competitive air to the day; people eyeing off successful stalls, hawking for new customers; trying to steal them from their neighbours and such. But this was not the case.  Sunday was a day for sharing, learning and admiring the work of others. People in the writing industry within Melbourne have said to me that writing here is very competitive but throughout the festival and especially at the page parlor, it was anything but. Why not share and be excited by the ideas and creative talent of others?  There is nothing better for inspiration for ones own work. That will be what I will take away from the past two weeks. Be open to what other people are doing, don’t try so hard to compete with them. They might just give your best idea yet.


Laura Main

Poetry: Bringing Old Forms To Life

When I think of poetry I think of a young gnome-like man called Dennis. I met Dennis in a bar some years ago in London. When I asked Dennis what he did for a living, he answered, “I’m a poet.” He then proceeded to offer me his business card which simply read: DENNIS THE POET. At a park bench near you. A poet? Do people still ‘do’ poetry in this latter-day world, beyond just a nod to literary tradition? Don’t get me wrong: I’m partial to poesy, but I’ve always thought of it as an intellectual exercise for the whimsical few. However, last Wednesday afternoon my perception was altered when I entered The Moat cafe, the venue for this year’s Poetry Cafe event.

As I hopped down the steps descending into what was once a grubby 19th century basement, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. Parisian terrace chairs like those that cradle les petites mademoiselles de Paris in old French postcards. Elegant waiters dressed in classic black aprons. Small round tables with curly legs, many of them occupied by singletons decadently sipping wine at three O’clock in the afternoon. Delicious cakes haphazardly placed on an old wooden tray. A lamp shade made from old sheet music. Bathing in this trove of timeworn treasures, I settled into a quiet corner and ordered a coffee. My senses were well and truly awakened by the visual pleasure that surrounded me. Why do we enjoy these hoary fancies you may ask? Because it allows us to be part of something fantastical and unknown? To witness old meanings brought to life creating new meanings? Or simply to indulge because we can? I’ll let you decide.

As I sipped my soy flat white I listened to – no I experienced – poetry. I experienced tales of modern Melbourne and Scottish Baronesses, anecdotes of techno-obsessed children and speed-dating, and stories of holocaust death camps and youth suicide. Through a delicate selection of few words, not many, I felt. I imagined. I learnt. I was stunned at how this ‘old-fashioned’ writing style could stir such a strong emotional response within me. An antique structure, reupholstered to convey new awareness and ideas that we can all relate to. My soul was pampered by the poet’s elegant skill, and I left re-assured that there was indeed life left in this delicacy after all.

Varia Karipoff is an emerging Melbourne writer, and is the resident café poet at The Moat until November 2012. I urge you to wander down to 176 Little Lonsdale Street one afternoon and spoil yourself with Varia’s verses – and perhaps a glass of wine or two – whilst basking in a nostalgic air that is sure to delight your imagination. Poetic prose is guaranteed to tickle your brain and warm your heart whilst distilling the beauty of language and often, what it means to be human. There is definitely no better place to host such an affair, except maybe a lonely park bench in old London town, which I will be sure to visit next time I’m in the Northern hemisphere. Perhaps it won’t be as lonely as I once thought.

- Stephanie McLean.

What did you think of #ewf12?

The Emerging Writers’ Festival is your festival – a festival for writers – and as such we’d love to invite you to submit your thoughts, ideas and opinions about this year’s festival and how we could improve in the future.

Our post-festival feedback survey takes approximately five minutes to fill in, and it would mean the world to us if you took the time to tell us about your festival experience.

As an added incentive, everyone who fills in the survey will receive a special code from our publishing partner, Blurb.com, to print a free book. If you’ve seen our book, The Emerging Writer, you’ll know how gorgeous Blurb books can be. So take the survey then create a book today – memories from the festival, perhaps…?

Take the survey!

Fright Night

What is it about fear that seems to attract people so very much? Why is an evening, advertised to send shivers down your spine and have the hair on the back of your neck stand on end, a sell out? I questioned my own innate desire to be rigid with fear, to be told harrowing stories of death, darkness and horror. But, nevertheless, I found myself lining up with another 50 unsuspecting fools, eager to be told scary tales within the confines of the State Library.

I am not exactly sure what I expected from the evening, but if I am entirely honest, I was left feeling slightly underwhelmed.

Do not get me wrong; it was a ‘scream’ of an evening. Some of the stories told on Thursday night were frightfully hilarious and had the night’s attendees crying with laughter. Whitney Houston was at one point a reincarnated ghost, sent back to earth to torment the living soul of Bobby Brown, zombie’s roamed earth in the body of primary school children, and a tale of a three week old tampon had me dry reaching and gasping for air in the back rows of the ballroom.

What my evening really lacked was blood curdling, spine-chilling, ghastly terror. The feeling when you have just been told a scary story and there is no way on god’s green earth that you will ever be able to move from your seat and conquer the darkness. I wanted tales of the ghouls that trawled the music stacks above us, tales of absolute darkness.

The writers of the evening interpreted the idea of Fright Night into something that I had not anticipated. Some writers discussed fear in much more domestic terms, like perhaps the fear of writing or the fear of what one might encounter working as a nurse. Perhaps, people have a fear of fear and prefer to avoid such toe-curling, hair-raising tales. This is completely understandable as once I have been told such a tale I immediately regret it; having to look behind you every three seconds and to check under the bed before lights out isn’t quite worth the trouble.

The most ghostly of tales I heard that evening came in fact from none of the scheduled writers. Standing at the bottom of the stairs waiting to be let in to the ballroom earlier that evening I was told of ghouls that trawled the Vietnamese countryside of my storyteller’s native homeland. Ghouls in Vietnam, so I am told, haunt the area where they were killed and are only allowed to rest if a priest comes and sets them free while the body still lies there. Painful, premature, and horrific death are said to unleash the most horrid of souls that torment that place forever. Apparently countless country folk in Vietnam have been tormented by these ghouls to the point of death, where they can no longer take the fear instilled in them by restless, bodiless souls of the dead.

What really made the night worthwhile was, undoubtedly, the location. We sat beneath softly glowing chandeliers that grew from every piece of architrave along the ballroom. In the dim light we listened, not only to the stories being told to us, but also listening out for any sign of Grace, the librarian ghost who wanders the hallways after sun down.

Laura Main

Nerdy night out

Ben McKenzie is a nerd. I’m a nerd too. I think you’re probably a nerd as well and that makes three of us so it’s already a crowd.

In a word we nerds are obsessed. We take fandom to a whole new level and get a little… weird about it.

Organisers crammed nerds and geeks alike into the back room at the Worker’s Club on Wednesday night and piped the beer in. There weren’t as many costumes as one might think. I didn’t know what to expect so I waited and sipped in anticipation.

Andrew McClelland was the first guest for the night. He whipped through his computer obsession with furious passion and the intensity of a truly obsessive nerd. He bellowed about killing video Nazis and Zombie Hitler and had the crowd in fits from the outset. He was the first of nine guests and host McKenzie, who indulged in their nerdy topics of choice. From the gadgetry and technology nuts to the gruesome details of 17th century Dutch traders and the proper dress etiquette for amateur cyclists, each speaker was really saying “I’m a nerd and I’m proud of it”.

The highlight was an insight into the tendencies of emerging writer Meg Mundell who talked about nerd levels in organisation. She showed personal examples of her colour-ordered library, book vandalism and list making. Shrieks of laughter perforated the atmosphere.  I even noticed the bar staff giggling shamelessly.

The pride in proper nerdism was thick in the air. The audience shared transcendence as their nerdy behaviour was validated and celebrated.

It got me thinking; what nerdy things am I obsessive about? Well that was obvious, and it’s a cracker: Fantasy Football. Wow, it doesn’t get much nerdier than that.

Or does it?
What is your nerdy obsession?


Lance Kerwin

VU Blog Squad

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